Copper thief sentenced
The judge cites the public harm as cause for the five-year term
A man convicted of ripping copper sidings and rain gutters off the Honolulu Board of Water Supply's Kapahulu facility was sentenced yesterday to five years in prison.
In handing down the maximum sentence for second-degree criminal property damage, Circuit Judge Steve Alm noted that while Michael Handy's actions did not constitute violence against another, taxpayers are the ones who were hurt.
He ordered that Handy, 45, pay restitution of $4,500 to the state, which estimated damage and replacement costs of $23,000. The copper was valued at less than $100.
In addition to theft, a jury convicted Handy on June 15 of second-degree criminal trespassing.
Deputy Prosecutor Franklin Pacarro argued for the maximum term, saying there needs to be deterrence. The community and the Legislature thought this type of crime serious enough that it increased penalties this year for stealing a pound or more of copper.
"People think it's just a theft crime," Pacarro said. "It's a public utility -- and it affects all of us."
Deputy Public Defender Lee Hayakawa said Handy was the "sacrificial lamb" for a crime that has increased in the past year. Handy was the first defendant arrested in connection with a series of copper thefts to go to trial.
In the past year, thieves have targeted copper at schools, churches and freeway lights. Campbell High School canceled a Friday night football game last month after copper wiring was ripped out, leaving the athletic field in the dark.
Handy, who has had a history of employment and entrepreneurial endeavors, was homeless at the time and claimed he was looking for a place to sleep. He was leaving the area with his bike when police arrived and detained him.
Hayakawa said Handy has no history of violence, has a drinking problem but is a good candidate for probation.
Alm called 17-year-old Bronson Vea a "good Samaritan" for calling 911 to report the disturbance in the early morning hours of May 24, 2006. Had it not been for Vea and his mother, Handy would have gotten away with it, Alm said. Vea kept 911 dispatchers abreast of Handy's actions and identified the man seen leaving the scene on a bicycle as the suspect.
Hayakawa said Handy has already served 13 months in prison. He will make another appeal to the Hawaii Paroling Authority when Handy comes up for hearing in the next three months.